domenica 4 maggio 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron on Asus Z53Jr

On April the 24th the final version of Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy Heron" was released.
In this post I'll evaluate how well it fits on my Asus Z53Jr Laptop.

My notebook (which is now a years old but still amazingly fast) specs are:
  • Intel Core2duo T7200 2GHz 4Mb cache
  • 2Gb RAM DDR2
  • 160Gb HD
  • 15" 1280x800 TFT screen
  • ATI X2300 Video Card with 128Mb RAM up to 898Mb shared memory
  • SD Card Reader
  • 1.3 MPx Camera
  • Network: Ethernet + Intel i3945 802.11 a/b/g Wireless
  • Ports: 4 USB 2.0, 1 FireWire, VGA out DVI out
One year ago I've installed Ubuntu 7.04 wich I've later upgraded to 7.10.
This time I wanted to see all the improvements of a "fresh" distro so I backup-ed all my data and I went for a fresh install.

I've downloaded the standard cd, burnt it and rebooted the system. The I selected my keyboard ad proceeded with the live distro so I could access the graphic installer from it.
The live cd worked fine recognizing the correct screen resolution (1280x800) and the intel wireless also.

I clicked on the install and a wonderful installation process reduced to 7 easy steps let me tell Ubuntu all It needs for the installation BEFORE it started leaving me free to play with my baby or watch tv while the installation procedure took care of everything!

At the end of the process the only thing I've had to do was to reboot my system which was perfectly usable (see previous post for the problems on 7.04 if interesed).

The wireless card was recognized without any problems, and the only thing I've had to do was to insert my WPA key to enable the network.
I don't have an ethernet plug near my notebook so wifi is the only chance to have an internet access for me.

The repositories (just a suggestion)

Having my internet access out of the book before trying everything else I've enabled all the official repositories and added the medibuntu repositories. If you want to add this repository too please refer to the howto on medibuntu's website.
In medibuntu you can find acrobat reader, google-earth, skype all packaged and ready to be downloaded.

ATI Card (Restricted Modules)
The default driver used by Ubuntu is the free ati one. If you want the ati proprietary driver (fglrx), and I suggest this if you want applications like google-earth to work open a prompt and type in

sudo apt-get install xorg-driver-fglrx

after this select the restricted driver from System -> Administation -> Hardware Drivers and reboot.

Composite and OpenGL Support

The fglrx driver developed by amd-ati is now at a decent level of development which means that you can use composite without problems.
You can even use openGL without any major problems.
The point is: you can use them individually but not together!
If you try to do so (try to open google-earth with composite enable) the 3D rendering will flicker resulting in an unasable application.
This is not Ubuntu's fault but a problem related with the fglrx driver itself.
The truth is that I don't really care much of all the fancy composite stuff so this is not a big problem to me.

Suspend & Hibernate
In ubuntu 8.04 they work PERFECTLY out of the box! This is fantastic considering that we are talking about a notebook. Really a great improvement compared to the previous versions of Ubuntu.

Function Keys and Extra Keys
The notebook has 5 keys near the power button. None of them is working. They work in Vista, which came preinstalled on the notebook, using a special application made by Asus running in background.
If you know hot to make them work fell free to contact me.
There is another series of special keys (Fn keys):
  • Fn+F1 (suspend) works
  • Fn+F2 (enable disable wireless) not working
  • Fn+F3 (opens the mail client, or anything you prefer) works
  • Fn+F4 (opens the browser) not working
  • Fn+F5-F6 (display brightness up/down) working
  • Fn+F7 (toggles the display lamp on/off) woks
  • Fn+F8 (external display) not tried yet
  • Fn+F9 (enables/disables touchpad) not working
  • Fn+F10-F11-F12 (audio on/off, down, up) working
1.3 Mpixel Camera & Microphone
The 1.3 Mpixel camera & the integrated microphone are working perfectly out of the box. I've tested them using skype 2.x. & the sound recorder tool.
The only thing I've had to do was to enable Capture in the sound volume panel and try out some setting of Front Mic & Front Mic Boost to adjust the recording level.

Firefox 3 (beta 5)???
The only thing in which I have some doubts at the moment is the presence (by default) of firefox 3 beta 5 and not the old (but stable) firefox 2.
From this beta you can see that the new firefox will be an absolutely good browser but at present there are some little things that do not convince me:
  1. the "page loading" rolling icon on the tab never stops even when the page is fully loaded
  2. google browser sync plug-in at present isn't compatible with the new firefox... is you are used to google browser sync as I am this is really annoying.
I'll try it out for for another week but I'll probably switch back to firefox 2 (which is donwloadable from the official repositories of course).

Final Thoughts
In my opinion Ubuntu 8.04 it's a great improvement compared to 7.04 (and 7.10 of course).
This distro resolves a lot of problems present in previous releases.
  1. No need for the alternate cd anymore. You can do the live install procedure without problems.
  2. Improvement in hardware management: wireless card, web camera, function keys
  3. Better fglrx driver "out of the box" (after enabling the restricted modules of course)
  4. Great suspend and hibernate (a must for a notebook)
I think that if you have a notebook you should give it a try... expecially with hardware similar to mine.

As usual feel free to contact me if you have any doubts. I'm not a linux geek of fanatic but a java programmer but if I can give you some help you're welcome.

venerdì 2 maggio 2008

Italian Taxes on-line (Redditi on-line)

Our finance minister Visco a few days ago released on line all the 2005 returns of the italians.
Is this correct?
I think that in a country like Italy where tax evasion is out of control this is a good measure to prevent people evading taxes and honest people should not worry at all.
All the data where put off-line just a few hours later. Fortunately internet is the land of freedom so a lot of this data are now available on eMule (and maybe other sharing systems).